The last of the summer leaves
First Ward, City Council
Coffee wakes some of us up
I hold office hours 7:30 to 9 am on most Mondays at the Northside Grill.
The folks at the Northside put up with political talk early in the morning. If you see me there, please wave, and if you have time, please, join me for coffee and a chat.
Caucus is held at 3:30 pm on the Sunday prior to each Council meeting.
The City Council holds a caucus meeting each Sunday prior to a Council meeting. This meeting is an opportunity for members of Council to discuss agenda items -- and pending issues -- with each other in public view. Members of the public are welcome to attend to bring issues to the attention of Council members.
I’ve raked about a third of the leaves and sent them off to compost. Of course, that means I have about two-thirds to go. I’m looking forward to warm weather for the first week of November. I’ll take what I can get.
Over the past few days I started watching the ‘Great British Baking Show’ – on the recommendation of my son. The upshot is that now I’m tempted to make doughnuts and fritters – things that dropped out of my repertoire decades ago when I eliminated deep frying. But still, between thinking of making puff pastry from scratch and remembering the delightful odor of rising dough mixed with nutmeg, it’s a temptation. Maybe apple and plum fritters for breakfast.
The best apples for pies, applesauce and just plain eating are now at the Farmers Market. I like Northern Spy apples for retaining flavor and form in a pie, but bought some Arkansas Black apples for eating and cooking (these are probably a seedling of Winesaps, another great apple). I don’t like to get fruit out of season, and am always eager for heritage apple varieties – the kind I won’t find in a grocery. It’s too bad that grocery chains don’t relish the seasonality of fruit and vegetables, because so many of us think there’s a real flavor difference. (I always disliked Red Delicious apples because the skins were too hard and the flesh to dry. It took me years to understand that there are much better apples.)
THE LIBRARY LOT
The City will hold an open house for residents to meet with the prospective developers and see what changes they have made to their proposed building and public open space plans on Wednesday, November 4th from 4-7 pm in the lobby at City Hall.
About 80 people came to the two public presentations of the proposals on Thursday, October 22nd. I was able to attend the presentation that began at 3 pm; I know others went to the one at 6:30 pm. Both public meetings had the same format: attendees were given an electronic ‘clicker’ to respond to some survey questions, an index card to write a question for the developers, and an opportunity to speak to the meeting by asking questions or making a statement. The survey questions asked are the same presented on the City’s A2 Open City Hall website. (Remember that you must sign in before answering the survey, or you will lose your responses.)
On the Council agenda for November 5th is a resolution calling for the Council to place the issue of whether to sell or lease the land on the ballot for the public to weigh in. (see below)
The Council has not committed to selling the lot for development and has the right to reject all proposals.
June 23, 2015: 5 proposals make short list for the Library Lot
June 23, 2015: Download developers' proposals for Ann Arbor Library Lot
Jun 30, 2015: Updated drawings of developer plans
August 31, 2015: 2 development proposals in running for Ann Arbor's Library Lot
October 23, 2015: Developers present plans for Library Lot in downtown Ann Arbor
First, I owe you an apology. The links I posted in my last newsletter didn’t all work. Because I copied them from another document, I failed to confirm that the links had copied properly. Below are the corrected links.
Also, please note:
The City Council will hold a public hearing on whether to place a temporary moratorium on the ordinance that prohibits weapons use on public land. This resolution will be before Council on THURSDAY, November 5th; the public hearing will occur at 7 pm; the vote on the resolution will occur later in the meeting. (see below)
The City has provided a brief update on efforts to manage the deer population. Among other efforts, the City has begun to provide information to the community about a variety of implementations.
DEER MANAGEMENT INFORMATION AND RESOURCES
Staff has begun collecting information that will include:
1. Information about the Deer Feeding Ban Ordinance
2. Don’t Veer for Deer vehicle safety information: Link to www.michigandeercrash.com
3. Gardening with Deer Tips: Link to Michigan State information webpage http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/how_to_protect_your_yard_and_garden_from_deer_and_rabbits
4. Tick and Lyme Disease Prevention: Link to CDC tick & Lyme disease prevention brochure https://www.michigan.gov/documents/emergingdiseases/Tick_Lyme_Prevention_432371_7.pdf
5. Cull Information – Information to come once Council approves a sharp shooter contract. The City has a recommended vendor (USDA-APHIS) and will bring a resolution to City Council regarding the contract on November 5th.
6. Humane Society of the United States Sterilization Program or research next steps. When available, information will be provided.
MONITORING THE IMPACTS OF DEER TO VEGETATION IN PARK NATURAL AREAS
The City does not currently have quantitative data to assess impacts of deer on vegetation in City natural areas. Staff is considering what a long-term monitoring program should look like, that could start during the 2016 growing season. In the short term, in an effort to establish some level of baseline data on deer impacts prior to initiating a cull this winter, staff recommends contracting with a local researcher to conduct a browse damage evaluation in 4 wooded City parks beginning in November 2015. Also called “bioassays,” these consist of planting sentinel (or “sacrificial”) red oak tree seedlings at selected locations in the field and assessing them for deer browse damage over time. This method is referenced in Cornell University’s recent Deer Management Study. Staff is proceeding with contracting with Dr. Jacqueline Courteau, a local consulting ecologist, to begin conducting these bioassays. Dr. Courteau has extensive expertise and experience monitoring deer impacts in southeastern Michigan
On the Agenda
CITY COUNCIL MEETS ON THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 5; PLANNING COMMISSION MEETS ON WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 4. PLEASE NOTE THE DAY CHANGE DUE TO THE TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3 GENERAL ELECTION. AND DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!
Both meetings will be held in City Council Chambers. This is the final meeting for current Council members; new Council members take their seats for the November 16 meeting.
Perhaps the most controversial vote the Council has taken in the past eight years has been the decision to approve the City’s deer management plan. Although the Council added the direction that staff would work to plan and execute either a sterilization or contraceptive intervention (pending approval from the Michigan DNR), most residents have focused on the other major aspect of limiting deer population – a limited cull.
The Council has heard from many residents who are concerned that a cull would take place on public land. Because the potential sites for a cull have not been identified or announced, residents have voiced concern that a cull would occur in their local playground, in the park their children walk through to get to school, or even in neighborhoods. I don’t anticipate that these concerns will be realized. The cull would be limited to areas in the First and Second wards (because that’s where there are the most deer) and would be conducted in the depth of winter, during the darkest hours of the night. That’s not to hide from public view the actions the City is taking; it is to minimize the risk to members of the public while also minimizing the number of days and locations for the cull.
But before there can be a cull, the Council must address the fact that firing weapons – anywhere in Ann Arbor – is illegal (except by the police, also under limited conditions). Because making any change to the ordinance – including placing a temporary moratorium on the ordinance to allow weapons to be fired – is of significant public concern, the Council will hold a public hearing at 7 pm at City Council. Following the public hearing (3 minutes each, as many as want may speak), the Council will discuss whether to impose a temporary moratorium on the enforcement of the prohibition regarding the possession and discharge of weapons in public spaces.
If the resolution passes, the Council will then discuss whether to enter into a service agreement with the US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) Wildlife Serves to plan, manage and conduct a limited cull (killing a portion of an animal population) in the very late winter or early spring of 2016.
On the agenda for Council discussion is a resolution to seek voter approval for the sale or development of the Library Lot. Although the developers may redeem themselves at the open house on Wednesday, November 4th, this resolution seeks, once again, to establish a public process – one that allows the public to vote, not on the details of a project, but on whether to sell or lease the Library Lot development rights at all.
For some of us, the public process surrounding the Library Lot has been flawed. Input from the community about community benefits and the design and use of the public open space was not solicited until the designs of the buildings had been, at least, significantly thought about. The concern that some voiced - that the public space would serve as little more than a courtyard entrance to the building - has been confirmed by the developers' initial decision to include a portion of Library Lane and the AADL land as part of their calculation of public open space.
Another aspect of the public input process - the survey currently running on A2 Open City Hall - provides no opportunity for feedback on the public open space. Instead, it focuses on aspects of building design, using questions that I find myself unable to effectively answer. For instance, it asks if the 'development project would help to “activate” (create spaces that are active with people) this block of downtown' and whether it will ‘encourage positive nighttime uses.’ While I really want you to take the survey, I remain uncertain how valuable the survey results will prove.
There are always other items on the agenda. For example, on Thursday, the Council will discuss whether to accept a variety of utility easements, Please let me know if you have questions about any item I didn’t cover, or concerns about any item at all.
The City Council will hold public hearings on the zoning and site plan proposals for Nixon Farms North and Nixon Farms South on Monday, November 16 (postponed from previous meetings). If you have viewpoints to bring before Council, please prepare to speak for two or three minutes. If you have questions or concerns that you would like answered before the public hearing and Council discussion, please send those questions to me or to anyone else on Council.
On Monday, November 16, the Council will learn more about which candidate for Police Chief has been selected. The Council may also discuss whether to provide additional funding for winter emergency shelter for the homeless, and may get an update on the progress the County has made to find housing for all chronically homeless and all homeless veterans (the goal is to have provided such housing to all by the end December).
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3RD
7 am – 8 pm, at a polling place near you: Election Day in Ann Arbor. Please remember to vote!
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 4TH
4 – 7 pm, come to the lobby of City Hall to meet with the prospective developers of the Library Lot. See whether (and how) their designs have changed in order to respond to resident comments at the public meetings in October. And don’t forget to leave feedback! And contact your Council members.
7 pm, Planning Commission, City Council Chambers
The Planning Commission will discuss, and may make a recommendation on North Sky, a proposed rezoning and site plan for 209 new dwelling units (including 36 new units zoned R1E, which has a maximum lot size of 4000 square feet and a maximum house size of 2000 square feet). Most of the current zoning descriptions define minimum lot sizes and infer a maximum building envelope based on the minimum setbacks. When the Council approve R1E zoning as a category, it was envisioning smaller, denser neighborhood housing – perhaps desired by empty nesters or single adults. This site is on Pontiac Trail, across the street from Arrowwood and north of Skydale.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 5TH
6 – 7 pm, come to the lobby of City Hall to meet with candidate for Police Chief. This is your opportunity to talk with the candidates, offer them insights into Ann Arbor’s culture and expectations, and gain information about how they see the role of police chief here. Don’t forget – offer your reactions and comments to members of Council by Friday morning, so those may be reflected in what we ask about when we meet with those candidates later.
7 pm, City Council will hold a public hearing on whether to allow (temporarily) weapons to be fired on public land for the purpose of culling deer (see the agenda). The Council will later vote on this item, as well as on a contract with USDA-APHIS wildlife services to design, manage and conduct the cull.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 11TH
Armistice Day / Veterans Day, all day. At 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, representatives from the France, Britain, and Germany signed an armistice ending the First World War (or to those signers, the war to end all wars). In the US, it’s now called Veterans Day, a day to honor military veterans, but to me, it will also be a memorial to the 14-point peace effort by President Woodrow Wilson – who also embraced the League of Nations. A progressive Democrat, in Congress he oversaw a progressive legislative package and policies. In 1915, Wilson (in his first term as President) gave a speech in Indianapolis stating that “the trouble with the Republican Party is that it has not had a new idea for thirty years… the Republican Party is still a covert and a refuge for those who are afraid, for those who want to consult their grandfathers about everything."
We’ve all heard about the value of green space in our community. If we had a book club, I’d recommend this for our next shared text: Places of the Heart, by Colin Ellard. It’s a deep dive into our relationship with nature in the context of anthropology and urban life. And it’s written in a positive and informative voice. Other books and documents that can help us discuss public space and green space include:
Privately Owned Public Space, by Jerold Kayden
The Street: a Quintessential Social Public Space, by Vikas Mehta
Life Between Buildings, by Jan Gehl
How to Study Public Life, by Jan Gehl and Birgitte Svarre
Rethinking Urban Parks: Public Space and Cultural Diversity, by Setha Low and Dana Taplan
Designing Public Participation Processes (a PDF), Public Administration Review (Bryson, Quick, Slotterback, Crosby)